Skype Co-Founders Invent Delivery Drone on Wheels
Attention humans: the future is now.
Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, former co-founders of Skype, have created a company called Starship Technologies which will produce small, autonomous ground drones that are designed to deliver groceries, drug store products and packages straight to your home at an incredibly low cost. Essentially, the drone looks like a little high-tech cooler on six wheels, complete with a video camera, sensors, and GPS tracking system. Fascinating.
The whole idea behind their creation is that a customer will place their order online and then the drone will be automatically loaded up with up to two grocery bags – or 20 pounds – of goods inside a “portable warehouse”, which is built from a converted cargo container. These can be set up anywhere there’s a bit of empty space, which is incredibly convenient. The drone then heads out on its journey! It travels on sidewalks at a top speed of four miles an hour, the speed of a fast pedestrian, and its goal is to have the package delivered within 5 to 30 minutes. The drones can apparently navigate their way through busy pedestrian traffic with ease because they can detect obstacles, adjust speed, stop, and even safely cross streets all on their own.
The drone can somehow even tackle low stairs, and is battery powered, which means that it’s ready to go out and do more deliveries after a short recharge at the warehouse. This makes it much better for the environment, because it’s not using gas, like typical delivery trucks. It consumes even less energy than most light bulbs! It’s also 15 times cheaper than hiring a human delivery person, which is its major draw, and is totally waterproof.
Another really cool feature of this service is that you can track the drone’s progress with an app on your phone, and then use the same app to open up the drone when it gets to you. Only you have the key to open it up! Kinda makes you feel like a secret agent, doesn’t it?
Even so, I immediately thought the worst and wondered, “Couldn’t someone just pick this thing off the street, bash it with a hammer and claim whatever’s inside as their own?”
The answer is yes, technically, but these drones come complete with a video camera and a GPS tracking system, so that probably wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do. The grocery bag full of produce and peanut butter probably wouldn’t be worth the time you’d spend behind bars after the company tracks you down with the GPS, so I’d strongly advise against it.
Starship drone: https://www.starship.xyz/concept/
I’m trying to imagine a world where humans and ground drones share the sidewalk like it’s no bigdeal. It just seems so crazy that we would ever get used to that! It’s such a futuristic image. Will they be able to speak with humans? Ask them about their day, or offer a friendly hello? Or would we just ignore them, like these insane pieces of technology weren’t maneuvering past us en route to their destination? Maybe that’s where we’re headed, but it’s not easy to picture when some of us still don’t know how to operate an iPad.
One of the obvious upsides to ground drones – and I’m assuming it’s the reason Starship Technologies created this type of drone – is that they’re not airborne drones. There has been a lot of debate recently over the use of airborne delivery drones, including the problem of drones flying too close to aircrafts, drones flying much too close to homes, and even the Federal Aviation Administration changing their policies. A man in Kentucky was even arrested a couple of months ago for shooting down a drone that he felt was flying too close to his house! Clearly, people haven’t entirely warmed up to the idea of airborne drones yet. Currently, Amazon, Walmart, Google, and other companies all want to implement airborne delivery drones, which complicates things. All I can say is that this is definitely not the last you’ll hear of airborne drone issues! At least for now, these low-risk ground drones seem like a realistic middle ground, as far as robotic deliveries go.
Unfortunately you won’t see any delivery drones yet, but it will happen soon – Starship Technologies will first test its robot in Greenwich, England, in 2016. And if all goes as planned, we might see these little guys strolling down the sidewalks next to us a few years after that.
Check out Starship Technologies’ website here if you want to learn more about their delivery drones.
Caitlin Feehan, Blogger & Editor
Converse have been my footwear of choice for the past 9 years, I’m convinced that all doors and sidewalks are conspiring against me, and I enjoy sticking my head out of the passenger window on long car rides.